Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Obama administration officials in Israel to demand end to settlement building.

This is a slippery slope:

Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is reportedly discussing a deal with the Israeli leadership that would allow the completion of several thousand homes for Jewish settlers already under construction but impose a total halt to building once they are complete. Such an agreement would amount to a concession by Obama, who laid down an immediate and complete freeze on construction as a marker of a more interventionist policy at a testy meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in Washington in May.

But American sources close to the negotiations say that getting Netanyahu to agree that no new construction can begin is an important step toward forcing a new diplomatic process that is no longer hostage to Israeli intransigence.

Netanyahu will say anything in order to complete the current settlements but my prediction is that, having seen Obama back down once, Netanyahu will then begin another stage of building.

This is simply what Israel have been doing since 1967. And they feel they have enough support amongst US politicians to defy any US president and feel sure that they can bring enough pressure on him to ensure that he backs down.
The diplomatic moves came as the Israeli military announced that the number of Jewish settlers on the West Bank has risen above 300,000 for the first time with about 200,000 more in East Jerusalem. About 2.5 million Palestinians live in the same territory.
The Israelis sound almost proud as they announce that 300,000 settlers are living illegally on Palestinian land. That alone is a testament to the ineffectiveness of US policy towards the Israelis for the last 42 years. The US has always said that it found the building of settlements "ill-advised" and "proactive" but, apart from the Carter administration, it has always fallen over itself not to call them illegal.

Which is why, 42 years later, we find Obama bending over backwards to try to get the Israelis not to openly defy him on the subject of the settlements.

Mitchell said at a press conference that the disagreement over settlement construction is a "discussion among friends" but it is also a test of Obama's authority.

One former official who monitors the negotiations closely said that the US is prepared to give ground because it sees a settlement freeze as an important step toward reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks.

There is no great expectation in Washington that talks will go anywhere but that they should have been tried and failed once again will help smooth the diplomatic path for the administration's plan to force its own proposals on to the table later this year which could force Israel to make significant territorial concessions.

It should be obvious to everyone, except the blindest Likud supporter, that the Israelis actually have no interest in peace. They are interested in land. Land which they believe was given to them by God.

Obama is about to come up against that reality. Previous administrations have done anything to avoid facing up to that fact. To that end they have pretended that Israel is "seeking a partner in peace" but that this partner remains ever elusive.

And the bottom line is that the Israelis are much more ruthless at this stuff than the Americans are. They have been practising Hasbara for the past 40 odd years. And Netanyahu won't be scared of getting into the mud and making this very messy indeed.

Obama can't hope to stand above the fray and refuse to soil himself by engaging in a bit of mud wrestling. That's exactly where the Israelis are about to take him.

He's taken his first step backwards in the hope of being reasonable. That's not a good step. All the Israelis will see is that Obama can be pushed. So they will push.

If he's to have any chance of bringing about a peace settlement, Obama needs to be ready to engage in verbal warfare. For the Israelis, and their US supporters, will throw the kitchen sink at him. He needs to stand his ground and not back down an inch.

This is not a great start.


This is what he is up against:
"People tell us that it is impossible to stand up against American pressure; there is no bigger lie," yelled out Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, which helped to organize the event. It was timed to coincide with US envoy George Mitchell's visit to Israel.

Netanyahu's government should be concerned with its election promises to support the settlements, rather than with its obligations to the US, Dayan said. This government has an obligation to return Israel to the Zionist path of settling the land, he said.

Prior to the rally Dayan told The Jerusalem Post he hoped "Netanyahu will learn lessons from those who preceded him."

He added that "David Ben-Gurion founded Israel in spite of American pressure... Menachem Begin destroyed Osirak in spite of American opposition, and Yitzhak Shamir rejected American demands to stop construction."

Demonstrators held signs that said, "Yes to Israeli Independence! No to American Demands!" Other signs read, "Israel will not fold."
Holding aloft a banner bearing the legend "Stop Screwing Israel," Zvi November of Ramat Eshkol in Jerusalem told the Post: "All of the land of Israel belongs to Am Yisrael... There are 22 Arab states comprising five and a quarter million square miles of land - they don't need ours."
They believe God gave them that land. And they are furious that Obama's actions are exposing them as the frauds which they are when it comes to peace. It was okay when it was Bush, who did nothing to promote peace and even went as far as hailing the war criminal, Sharon, "a man of peace". But Obama is insisting that the Israelis actually seriously engage in peace and it's obvious from Netanyahu's reaction and the reaction of the people who have taken to the streets that Israel isn't remotely interested in such a thing.

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